For all the chatter of a warped, lo-fi, synth-wave revival in the current Netflix sound tracks of Stranger Things and Master of None, that soupy-but-slick sound is old hat to Seth Haley, the New York-born, New Jersey electronic music producer known as Com Truise. “It’s flattering, I guess, though I can’t say I listen to a lot of it,” he says with a laugh about a career in tinny synths that began with a Casio bought at Radio Shack. “It’s everywhere now and there’s nothing I can do. Who knows why artists jump on wagons?”
The early MIDI, analog tones of the 1970s and ’80s, first heard in the records of disco producer Giorgio Moroder, new-wave acts such as Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark and film sound tracks to Liquid Sky and Logan’s Run, got an overhaul of wonky, bass-heavy, self-titled “slow-motion funk” once Truise started making moodily melodic records out of Jersey: 2010’s EP Cyanide Sisters, his debut full-length Galactic Melt in 2011, a 2016 EP, Silicon Tare, and now, his second official album, Iteration, which brings him to Philadelphia’s Coda nightclub on Wednesday.
In terms of compositions and playing, what attracted the young Haley to thumpy Linn drums and squelchy Minimoogs was the discovery of funk from Minneapolis and New York City. “Those drum machines really made me want to write this stuff, not in a retro way, but just as a tool,” he says, setting himself apart from the many artists who merely ape the influences of early Prince and the System. “I wanted to get my hands on that era’s equipment to see what I could do.”
And, yes, for Truise, melody came first in his compositions as opposed to his music’s pulse or vibe. “Making the rhythm more crucial than the actual song was tempting at first,” he says. “I like music that is beautiful and sad.” That melancholy is reflective in everything he’s done in his recording past, one that pretty much started when he moved to New Jersey in 2007 to be near a graphics job at an advertising firm, GSW Worldwide in Newtown, Pa. “That’s where I recorded the majority of my music, in my bedroom,” he says. “It was a lonely time for me there, and I think that came out in the music – it was the first time that I lived outside my parents’ house” (Truise has since moved to Brooklyn – “because that’s what an underground artist does” – and, recently, to Los Angeles).
The Coda show is something of a homecoming for Truise, as his first live DJ drum ‘n’ bass DJ sets of 2005 – years before he made records — were in Philadelphia at a now-defunct Race Street underground dance club, Liquid Charm, in a scene that included the near-legendary Dieselboy and the Concept Crew. His recorded music now, however, is far from what he DJ-ed. He got tired of the constant drum ‘n’ bass search for something new. “It lost its fun-ness. There was no focus on melody. Repetition was king. Then I heard Boards of Canada,” Haley says wistfully, talking about the inspiration of the mesmerizing, melodic, ambient synth ensemble. “Everything changed immediately.”
Haley’s Com Truise seems to get bored easily, as he moved to L.A. to change his scenery and switched off his all-instrumental button for several excursions into vocal territory. “Lo-fi instrumental, electronic music can get monotonously robotic if you don’t be careful, hence the singing. I’ll never do a full-out vocal album, but I like experimenting.”
Another seismic shift to his moody instrumental mien is giving both of his full-lengths — Galactic Melt and his brand–new, higher-tech and spacier Iteration – an actual story line. “The new album is definitely more grown up than the first one. I started with the first one talking about the journey of the first android astronaut looking for a planet with a civilization. It starts off peaceful with technological unity, until it — or he – freaks out because he falls in love with an alien girl he’s not supposed to have. He has emotions that are programmed within him and it’s a communication breakdown. Iteration is about them breaking through and finding their own lives together. I’d rather write about that sort-of story, rather than me breaking up with a girlfriend, to steer the mood of the record rather than just do a bunch of tracks.”
If that sounds cinematic, it can’t help but lead to the inevitable query about his name, a play on Tom Cruise and how is it that the actor hasn’t taken him to court. “Being my level underground means I’m surely below his radar,” Haley says with a chuckle. “I’m not detrimental to his bank account.”
Not for long, if Iteration is any indication.
Com Truise and Clark play at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Coda, 1712 Walnut St., $15, codaphilly.com